About Us

The Irish Arts Foundation was established in Leeds, England in June 1998 as a Company Ltd by Guarantee (No. 4927919) and a Registered Charity (No.1101657). Its initial establishment in 1998 as Harehills Irish Music Project (the former name of the Company with the working name of Irish Music Project) was the culmination of a six month informal consultation process with a range of different partners and practitioners across the city.

Whilst the major focus of our initial work related to traditional Irish music, increasingly the ongoing development project work became interspersed to include a broader cross section of Irish arts and culture e.g. literary, visual & drama based arts which was reflected by a renaming and re-branding to the Irish Arts Foundation in 2006.

In 2006, the organisation name was changed from the Irish Music Project to the Irish Arts Foundation (IAF). These very significant organisational changes, development and re-branding reflected the organisations broadening national profile and its diverse programming to reflect a broader cross section of Irish arts and culture e.g. literary, visual & drama based arts.

Irish History Month was established in 2007.  Until September 2014, it was a single member wholly owned subsidiary of IAF as a Company Limited by Guarantee (No 5908838) but is now an integral part of our Community Participation and Learning Programme.

The IAF has undertaken this programme of organisational change and development, which involved the introduction and implementation of two previous five-year strategic development plans. These plans provided significant guidance for our previous programmes of activities and methods of delivery.

These developments also re-invigorated the organisation internally and sent out a positive message about IAFs strong organisational will to thrive for many years to come These important changes formed the beginning of a new stage in IAF life in which an ongoing vision for the organisation has developed, of which our 2015-2019 Strategic Development Plan plays a similar key role.

The organisation’s development was spearheaded by two highly respected traditional Irish musicians, Des Hurley (Chief Executive) and Chris O’Malley (Director) with the support of a range of community and voluntary organisations.  Funding for specific projects was secured from the Emigrant Support Programme (Irish Embassy, London), The Irish Youth Foundation, The Ireland Fund of Great Britain, Culture Ireland, Heritage & Big Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Leeds City Council.

The IAF continues to deliver an immense amount of artistic activity, while being engaged in a process of defining and refining its areas of work. This has included the creation of internal infrastructure and new ways of working that support a high quality and sustained delivery of work.

The IAF has developed relationships with a large pool of freelance artists, mainly based in Yorkshire as well as nationally and internationally. Through these relationships, IAF has developed expertise in assessing the diverse skills and specialist areas of these artists and an ability to match them to respective projects. IAF has also built up a dedicated base of audiences and participants and the database continues to grow.

The IAF has now developed a name for itself as a professional organisation that specialises in creating participatory music opportunities, supporting artists to pursue successful careers in Irish arts, developing cutting edge project work and enabling other organisations to include Irish arts and artists in their work through advice, guidance, arts and advocacy.The IAF is based in Headingly Enterprise & Arts Centre, Leeds.